How long will it be before suicide is a human right?

(Photo: Helene Souza)

When soap operas were originally devised, apparently they were so named because they were seen as the ideal vehicle to use in order to persuade the public to use soap. Now it appears that soaps are used to promote social change and the agenda of the liberal elites. Coronation Street is an example of how the genre is used for such propaganda purposes.

Hayley Cropper, Britain's first transgender soap character, commits suicide after being told she has inoperable cancer. Hayley wants to take her life amongst other reasons because she fears strong painkilling drugs will make her want to regress to being a man! After dying she has a Humanist funeral. In a case of life imitating art, Julie Hesmondhalgh, the actress who played Hayley, is a member of the British Humanist Association and a staunch supporter of euthanasia.

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association could hardly contain his delight, tweeting, "Just seen preview spoiler of Hayley's #humanist funeral: from little I saw, think script will do us proud!" And it did.

However there is a concern. Have we reached the stage in Britain where serious debate is to be replaced by opinion polls, influenced by emotive storylines in soap dramas? And why so one sided? The producers of the show claim it is 'opening up the issue', but that is to say the least disingenuous. Where is the storyline about the elderly person feeling pressurised into asking for euthanasia?

Why does all this matter? Because Margo MacDonald and Patrick Harvie are returning to the Scottish Parliament with another pro-euthanasia bill. I suspect they will keep coming until eventually it is passed. When it is perhaps it will be called Hayley's Law? Meanwhile the Humanist Society, Secular Scotland and Friends at the End have launched a campaign to persuade MSPs of what doubtless will soon be regarded as a 'fundamental human right'. Allowing doctors to assist in killing people who want to commit suicide is a serious matter, and would be another fundamental and detrimental change in Scottish society. Should it really be decided on the basis of public opinion polls subject to the whims of those who do the asking and the media zeitgeist of the moment?

The vast majority of arguments I have heard in favour of euthanasia seem to be based on this kind of propaganda, which in turn fuels emotion, prejudice and feeds people's irrational faith. On the emotional side we are presented with lots of heart-breaking stories of people in pain. It is suggested that we would not allow a dog to remain alive in such misery, so why a human? It is a simplistic emotional argument and like all such, incredibly dangerous.

As regards prejudice I find it profoundly disturbing that the reason for some people supporting euthanasia is that those who are against it are perceived to be religious and anything religious must be resisted. It is surprising how common this attitude is. At a superficial level part of the reason for this is the common misperception that 'religious' people have 'faith' and are thus incapable of reason. Yet the people showing the most faith here are the advocates of euthanasia. They have faith that people are essentially good, and that human institutions will act honourably and justly, unaffected by greed, money or power. That is a VERY dangerous belief.

There is a great danger that euthanasia won't stop with voluntary assisted suicide for the terminally ill - it will soon move on to the depressed, the elderly and will inevitably become (as it has in the Netherlands and Belgium) involuntary euthanasia. We will get what so many people say they want - human beings treated like dogs. Put down when they cease to be useful and just become a burden on society.

Likewise the simplistic and emotive slogan of the pro-campaign – 'my life, my death, my choice'. Human autonomy is one of the great myths and false idols of our culture. Neil Barber of the Edinburgh Secular Society states that religious people are 'misplaced and cruel' because we teach that human beings 'do not have absolute dominion over our own bodies and lives'. It is not misplaced and cruel if it is true. As it demonstrably is. None of us have absolute dominion over our bodies and lives. We do not determine when we are born and we do not determine when we die - and nor should the State. We are subject to many variations outwith our control.

This time two years ago I was in a coma and I most certainly did not have dominion over my own body. I am thankful that those who did have some degree of control (the medical staff) are still part of a culture where human life is considered sacred and precious and where those who want absolute dominion have not yet achieved their goal of replacing a Christian view of morality with a secular humanist materialistic view.

Human beings are more than animals and we are more than (in the words of Bertrand Russell) 'a blob of carbon floating from one meaningless existence to another'. Let us hope that our MSPs remember from whence we came, and where we might be going if we head down the road the soaps point to.

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